Phillipe Coutinho will not travel to Hoffenheim with Liverpool for their UEFA Champions League playoff first leg.
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The Brazilian playmaker, 26, handed in a transfer request after Barcelona had two bids turned down by Liverpool, the second said to be over $114 million.
For you conspiracy theorists out there, let’s clear something up: even if Coutinho did play in Liverpool’s second leg against Hoffenheim next week he would not be cup-tied and unable to play for Barcelona in Europe if the deal went through.
Coutinho did not play in Liverpool’s Premier League opener, a 3-3 draw at Watford on Saturday, with the midfielder said to be struggling from a back injury.
Given his transfer request and Barca’s interest, the validity of said back injury is being heavily scrutinized.
Liverpool face the German upstarts on Tuesday in Hoffenheim and then at Anfield next Wednesday with the winner over the two legs sealing a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side are the favorites to advance but given this situation regarding Coutinho and similar defensive issues cropping up against Watford on Saturday, there is a little more pressure on the Reds than there should be right now.
The defensive display at Watford was shocking at times but not totally unexpected given no changes to the backline over the summer, while going forward the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamaed Salah and Roberto Firmino proved that scoring goals will never be an issue.
After working so hard to get back into the UCL all last season, Liverpool is now two games away from making it a reality.
The challenge of getting past Hoffenheim is much tougher without your most influential player.
Here is the squad in full for the trip to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena for the game at 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Liverpool squad: Mignolet, Karius, Ward, Alexander-Arnold, Moreno, Lovren, Milner, Wijnaldum, Henderson, Can, Mane, Salah, Firmino, Kent, Solanke, Origi, Gomez, Klavan, Flanagan, Robertson, Matip, Grujic